The Magic Castle Is Broke

Discuss the latest news and rumors in the magic world.

Postby Guest » 06/23/05 05:16 AM

The word at the Castle tonight is that they are having a hard time meeting payroll and if they don't take emergency measures to come up with some money that the Castle doors may close within the next few weeks. The Castle board has decided to send out a letter to all Castle members advising them that they are automatically being assessed $250.00 in order to save the Castle and AMA from bankruptcy. The assessment will need to be paid by all members whether they like it or not and if not paid it will be added to their renewal dues next year. The word is also that Castle dues will go up an extra $20.00 to $40.00 for everyone.
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Postby Guest » 06/23/05 07:43 AM

...and where did you hear this??
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Postby Guest » 06/23/05 07:47 AM

Brent, this was heard directly last night at the Castle. It was the talk of many people there. Seems they had a meeting with several of the members and let them know what was going to happen. The Castle is also hiring an outside team of forensic accountants to go over all the past years books to see why they are in such financial straights. All I can say is watch your mailbox, the letter is coming.
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Postby Pete McCabe » 06/23/05 07:58 AM

All the Castle insiders were talking about it last night. I heard that the Castle has made all the financial projections for the year, but will not make payroll in 6 weeks without this large infusion of cash.

This raises many questions, of course. Including:

1) Who does the Castle's books, exactly?

and

2) How many members are going to actually cough up $250 to cover the ass of whoever does the Castle's books?

and

3) How many members will not renew next year when their dues are suddenly $250 higher?

and

4) How long will the money raised by this "Special Assessment" last before members are assessed another $250?
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Postby Brian Morton » 06/23/05 08:05 AM

I kinda foresaw this after the last dues increase, and let my membership expire back then. Frankly, I can't say that this surprises me.

And it certainly would be interesting to see the books, wouldn't it?

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Postby Pete Biro » 06/23/05 09:23 AM

Is this the Acadamy or the Food and Beverage company you are all talking about?
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Postby Pete Biro » 06/23/05 09:38 AM

OK, just went to the Castle website and it is the AMA... Arhg... :eek:

Some many years ago, when they needed cash to build the add on section (Palace, Parlour, etc.) after being shut down (temporarily) by the Fire Marshall... The AMA offered "Life Memberships" -- at a then large amount ($1,000.00) maybe they could do that again as well instead of ar along with the assessment? :confused:
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Postby Steve Bryant » 06/23/05 11:34 AM

Yikes. I love the Castle and don't mind helping out, but that letter does zero to instill any confidence.
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Postby Guest » 06/23/05 12:01 PM

Wow - This is going to be interested.
...who will pay...who will not

This is like a sad reality show
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Postby Brad Jeffers » 06/23/05 12:43 PM

Since I first started reading Genii magazine in the late 60's, I have always wanted to visit the Magic Castle. With the events of the past year and now this, it looks like I better get out there soon!

Pete, if I lived in your area, I would be glad to pay a few thousand dollars for a life membership, but only if I thought that meant the rest of my life - not the rest of the life of the Castle :(
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Postby Brian Marks » 06/23/05 01:06 PM

Well the magic castle may become the magic house. You can do stage shows in the living room, parlor shows in the kitchen and intimate close up in the bedroom.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 06/23/05 01:13 PM

Originally posted by Steve Bryant:
Yikes. I love the Castle and don't mind helping out, but that letter does zero to instill any confidence.
Ditto.
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Postby Ben Bishop » 06/23/05 01:46 PM

Originally posted by Pete McCabe:
How many members are going to actually cough up $250 to cover the ass of whoever does the Castle's books?
I would think either everybody or nobody. You certainly can't have half the membership carrying the load for the other half. But the Magic Castle isn't exactly Bailey Savings and Loan - while people may be sentimental, I doubt they'll be sympathetic.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 06/23/05 02:49 PM

I spoke to Dale Hindman, president of the Castle, at length this morning.
This is a deadly serious situation.
The board was blindsided by the seriousness of the financial situation, caused by a number of factors (including a loss from 2004 that has been carried over).
The entire accounting, when it is completed in several weeks, will be sent (UNEDITED) to every member. So, those who want to know exactly where every penny has gone will have their chance.
More will be forthcoming shortly as an explanation of how and why this has happened, but the most important piece of information is that the Magic Castle has just enough financial reserves to make it to the end of August. That's it.
It is not unusual, I think, for clubs to occasionally assess their members in dire situations--this is one.
Keep checking the Magic Castle website for more information.
Subscribe today to Genii Magazine
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Postby Randy » 06/23/05 03:53 PM

Just read the letter from the AMA regarding the current financial situation and resulting assessment. While I personally don't feel that an additional $250 is too high a price to save such a great institution, I am quite a bit uneasy paying any more money when they (and us) don't even know the source of the problem yet. That is like dumping more water into a leaking bucket without even knowing the source of the leak........or how large it may become. Find the leak now, fix it and then I will feel secure about pouring in more water. Am I wrong in this ???
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 06/23/05 04:11 PM

No, you are not wrong.
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Postby Charles Spector » 06/23/05 04:22 PM

I am waiting for the financial review before I decide if I will pay or if I can even afford it. This is going to be a major hurdle to overcome.

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Postby Jon Racherbaumer » 06/23/05 04:30 PM

This is distressing news; however, it adds another layer of credence to the belief that the magic world is indeed undergoing a significant "sea-change" that will affect everyone. We have already lost many brick-and-mortar magic shops--a topic aired frequently on this Forum--and the number and kinds of venues for performers have also changed. The magic showcases in Colorado closed. Malone's place in Florida recently closed. The trade show environment has changed. If the Magic Castle eventually closes (in August or a year from now), it will be an abjectly sad and historic event, signalling that changes are occurring faster than we know and more quickly than we have the ability to speculate as to how it will all play out.

Onward...
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Postby Guest » 06/23/05 05:32 PM

Good Comparison Randy (leaky bucket)...if we pay now, who is to say an "accidental" event may happen again next year...or in 2-3 years...

Does anyone know Copperfield, Burton, Roy and anyone with enough bankroll and enough "love" for the Castle that would just donate the money. I'm sure it would be a tax write off...

Just thinking outloud
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Postby Jeffrey Cowan » 06/23/05 05:50 PM

Those of us with a direct interest in this issue (E.g., the members of the Academy) may wish to keep in mind that its annuals dues, even with the assessment, are still SUBSTANTIALLY less than those one pays to join most private clubs.

Compared to dues and mimimum dining charges at your average private club (ranging from your typical country/golf/tennis club to the Friar's Club), it remains a bargain.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 06/23/05 07:38 PM

That has always been, and will always remain to be, an irrelevant comparison no matter how many times Lew Horwitz tries to bash our collective brains in with it. Bastions of wealth, such as the clubs to which you refer, have a SUBSTANTIALLY larger market from which to gather its members; So much so that many have waiting lists (and look at how many country clubs there are compared to the number of Magic Castles). How many magicians and magic devotees are there compared to golfers? How many millionaires are golfers? How many millionaires are magicians?

Raise the dues up to (or even near) the level of clubs such as these and the majority of the AMAs members will be priced out of membership. Then what? The handful of wealthy members left will have their dues raised to make up for the shortfall and then they will begin to question the value of their membership. A rich-guy private magic club was tried here in Southern California. It didnt fair too well as I recall.

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Postby Guest » 06/23/05 10:58 PM

I wanted to join the Maic Castle about a year ago. They have strict rules on membership.

I can understand they want to keep it exlusive, but is it better to keep it exclusive and lose everything so know one can enjoy it or relax the membership requirements and let budding magicians who at this point cant be a full members, not be allowed to enjoy full benefits and have no more Magic Castle?

I can understand the point of view of full members, but what good is full membership if there is nowhere to go to enjoy your membership?
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Postby Guest » 06/24/05 04:35 AM

When I first interviewed and auditioned for Magician Membership at the Magic Castle - www.magiccastle.com I failed miserably. I was awful. My timing was off. My routine lacked continuity. In short my first audition was little more than amateurish fumbling (had Dai Vernon been alive and present he would have thrashed me thoroughly - and I would have deserved it.) But instead of being tossed out on my behind, I was treated with kindness and compassion (a rare commodity in today's world.) Two of the members of the audition committee that evening were particularly kind and helpful: Robert Parker - http://www.robertparkermusic.com - and "Ice" Kenrick McDonald - www.ice.mcdonald.net .

"Ice" spent nearly a half hour consoling and advising me, one-on-one after my total blowout bomb of a performance. He encouraged me to regroup, recover, and re-audition in a couple of months. His kind words bolstered and buoyed my sinking heart. He suggested that I attend "Magic Summer School" at the Jeff McBride Magic Center in Las Vegas - www.mcbridemagic.com - to prepare for my second audition at the Magic Castle.

Robert followed up with email to me, also encouraging me to try again and to give serious thought to the summer weekend intensive offered by Jeff McBride. I took the suggestion of these two very kind men, enrolled at the McBride center and was soon off to Las Vegas.

Not to sound melodramatic but frankly, my experience at the McBride Magic Center was life-altering. There, in a small intimate group of both seasoned and neophyte Magicians I was honored to study directly with Jeff McBride, Eugene Burger, and Alan Ackerman. I explained my situation and my need to "hone my chops" for my upcoming second Magic Castle audition.

Jeff McBride is a marvelous, caring human being. He went out of his way to see that I received the training and experiences that I needed in Magic, challenging me to grow as a performer and as a Magician, but with each challenge also generously soothing me with kindness and humanity. He made a point of introducing me to Eugene Burger, because like Eugene, I am launching a career in Magic later in life than most, leaving a successful career in the business world behind to "leap empty handed into the void" clinging only the belief that my feet will find solid ground on the other side, rather than plunge into the abyss.

Jeff helped me to infuse my Magic with heart and soul. Jeff is one of the few that when he speaks directly to you, he makes you feel like there is no one else in the room, that there is no one more important to him than you, that you have his complete attention. Eugene helped me to learn to wrap my magic in the nearly lost art of storytelling. Alan helped me to see how bad my mechanical technique with the cards was, and worked with me to greatly improve my skills.

I returned to the Magic Castle for my second audition as scheduled with a newly crafted routine, and this time full of confidence and serene in the knowledge that I had worked very hard to prepare for the challenge. I passed the audition and was accepted as a Magician Member that night.

I still have a lot to learn. And I remain in awe of my good fortune to be able to move freely about the domain of Milt Larsen's dream of a Victorian style, posh but not snooty, always fun but ever elegant, private club for Magicians, their guests, and invitees. This is hallowed ground my friends. And it is a privilege and an honor to draw breath in the same space in which Dai Vernon once "held court" nightly, to walk down the hallway and run into the likes of, Milt Larsen, Mark Wilson, Billy McComb, Whit Hayden, and countless other masters of the art and craft of Magic. And it is all the more enjoyable and meaningful for me because I had to work for it. Simply signing a check was not enough to be admitted to this fraternity of Magical arts. I had to earn my Magician Membership through difficult training, hard work and hours of preparation - and with it a sense of belonging at the Magic Castle.

If it was merely money that they were after the night of that first audition, then it was a poorly executed grift indeed. To send me home the with my un-cashed check for membership dues in my hand, it having been returned to me, violated the first rule of the con, "never let the mark leave with money in his pocket." There was no chalk mark on my back that night. This is a genuine gathering of those who honor and practice the art of Magic. And I'm honored and proud to have been accepted as a peer within such an auspicious group of masterful artists. To quote Mike Myers, "I'm not worthy." A little of the "Zen mind, beginners mind" could benefit most of us from time to time.

Yesterday (Thursday, June 23, 2005) in the mail I received my Notice of Special Assessment of $250 from the Academy of Magical Arts, Inc at the Magic Castle. Today I'll mail my check for not $250, but $350. I am not a rich man. In fact because of my midlife career change I have not earned even a single dollar in over a year until very recently. (What a bum, huh?) I can't be throwing money around thoughtlessly. But I have thought about The Magic Castle, and I cannot bear to see this beloved institution cease to be. Hence I'm voluntarily increasing my payment, by one-hundred dollars to $350.

To the members and fans of the Academy of Magical Arts, Inc at the Magic Castle that may read this and to others that care about the preservation of important landmark institutions such as the Magic Castle, I urge you to mail in your check right away. And please if you can, join with me in adding whatever amount you can manage (an extra hundred, or more is great.) If you are a working Magician or even a hobbyist, ask yourself how much money you have spent on magic books and DVDs - it is easy to spend $350 on Magic supplies, ephemera, and learning aids. How much would you and a companion have to spend in order to attend a performance of David Copperfield, Lance Burton, or Penn and Teller in Las Vegas?

Please don't let Milt's dream die. Help Dale Hindman, Milt Larsen, and the others manning the wheelhouse of this glorious ship of Magic, to sail it out of the maelstrom and into calm waters; to keep it afloat, for all of us: Members, future Members, guests and generations to come that might otherwise not experience the rich history and practice of the Magical arts. At a time when all art forms continue to be under attack and are often left untended to wilt and die, please help save this one bastion of all things Magical. A life without Magic would be grey existence indeed. Magic shows us not what is, but what might be. It frees our minds to see the world from a new perspective and to reject the artificial boundaries of what is "impossible." The dream, the waking dream of Magic, past present, and future lives on in the Magic Castle. We mustn't allow this vessel of wonderment and creativity to founder. Please help save the Magic Castle. Please send in your check today.

Thank you,
David Walske
David Walske Magic
www.davidwalske.com

PLEASE NOTE: I am not herein speaking for nor am I affiliated with the Academy of Magical Arts, Inc. in any way other than by way of paid Magician Membership.
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Postby Guest » 06/24/05 07:40 AM

Gentlemen:

It appears that the Magic Castle is on fire. You don't worry about trying to determine the cause of the fire before you put it out. If this particular fire takes cash to extinguish, pour it on. There's plenty of time to find the igniton source later. I'm not a member, and probably will never be a member - probably never even visit - but the Castle is too valuable to let die because folks wouldn't donate the cost of two and a half Harry Lorayne books. Let me know to whom and where to send a check and I'm mailing it. Mitch Dutton (Asrah)
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Postby Brian Glicker » 06/24/05 10:07 AM

David, that is exactly the way that I feel about the castle. I'm there at least once a week and it is an important part of my life.
Mitch, you are exactly right. Let's help save the Castle first and then look for the reasons.
Thank you for so eloquently stating the way many of us feel.
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Postby Jon Racherbaumer » 06/24/05 10:54 AM

Accenting the positive is usually a good thing.

I don't know EXACTLY how many practicing magicians are in the world, but I think the I.B.M. has 12,000 to 15,000 paid members. S.A.M. has a bunch, as well, with some obvious overlap. If members sent only $1 to the Castle in the name of tradition and to preserve an institution--just do the math. If they sent $10...Well...

Just a thought...
When the call goes out, I'll contribute...

Onward...
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Postby Guest » 06/24/05 10:59 AM

Jon,
that is a great idea! I'm sure the 1000s of members of both SAM and IBM wold be willing to contribute $1 for even $5. That is something I am hoping the Castle reads and takes as a suggestion....
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Postby Steve V » 06/24/05 11:45 AM

People could take donations at a gathering of magicians...I wonder if there is a gathering of magicians taking place during the next week or two, a big gathering.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 06/24/05 12:57 PM

These are incredibly magnanimous gestures indeed. The cynic in me (the one who has already paid his $250 assessment like the good little bundist that he is) hopes that it is not misguided.

Of course, while it is necessary to put the fire out regardless of cause, its important to know what fuels that fire: one does not put water on a gasoline fire. What precisely happened is all supposition at this point. But what if the full accounting reveals no major waste or irregularities and only some very harsh truths we dont want to hear? The dues are far too low for the number of members that are carried; the lectures are too big of a drain on the general fund; seven or eight magicians per week are too many (at the low pay-scale they are receiving). Is the membership going to be prepared for a raise in dues and a cutback in benefits? Many members, me included, already question the value of my membership every December. Of course, every year I send in my dues because, after all, its the Magic Castle.

Can we save the Academy? Short term, yes, I think we can. The question now is what we do in the long term. As for the romantic notions of some white knight riding in and saving the day with a money-covered lance, dont count on it. Those who have built fortunes and have kept them have done so for very good reasons. No, this is in our laps and we have to deal with it. Obviously, well take any help we can get.

However, the cynic in me also asks, Why should SAM or IBM members come to our rescue? Just because its the Magic Castle? What if, instead, it was their academy too?

A couple of years ago I forwarded a proposalcomplete with analysisto the Board of Directors. I have also brought it up in conversation with a couple of BOD members (now Trustees) and politically active members only to have it poo-pooed or ignored (I never heard a word regarding my official proposal). So I am going to bring it up here, in a public forum. Call it a trial balloon if you will.

William Larsen, Sr's. idea was that there should be an Academy for magicians: And that all magicians should be members. In fact, when one subscribed to Genii in those early days, you automatically became a member of the Academy of Magical Arts. My proposal to the Academy was a new level of membership. Call it what you will: Supportive Member or what have you. That level of membership costs $40 annually. The benefit of that membership is as follows:

Membership card (I suggested a paper card, thus distinguishing their level versus regular members credit card style).

The right to use Magic Castle Member on advertising/promotional materials.

The right to distribute guest passes (no VIP passes).

Access to the Members Only section of the Magic Castle website and its forums (and thus access to the electronic [PDF] version of the newsletter; no hard copy edition will be mailed to members at this level).

Two visits per year to the club (no annual rolloveruseem or loseem). No door charge for up to eight in the party (same rules as regular members). Lectures count as a visit. Swap meets do not count as a visitno charge for entry.

Access to other special events as determined (golf tournaments, etc.).

So there you have it. Im very curious if anybody would consider such a membership so they can call themselves a member of the Academy of Magical Arts and if those benefits listed are a good value for the money. By the way, it would not matter where you live.

If 5,000 people said yes, thats an incremental $200,000 a year with very little expended in regard to actual cost to the AMA.

Of course, thats something for the future. Right now we have to aim our money-hose at the fire.

Dustin

We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth.... For my part, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst; and to provide for it.

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Postby Tabman » 06/24/05 12:57 PM

Originally posted by Jon Racherbaumer:
If members sent only $1 to the Castle in the name of tradition and to preserve an institution--just do the math. If they sent $10...Well...
That's a great idea. As a one time Castle member I will chip in $100 to help keep it going, maybe if 1000 people joined the castle as associate members??? Pass the hat at the conventions???

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Postby Ryan Matney » 06/24/05 02:07 PM

Dustin,

I would probably join based on the terms you outlined. I've never tried to join because I'm on the other side of the country and figured a membership would be wasted but two trips a year would be doable. Are visits counted when you have dinner and/or see a performance?

Curious about a couple things: Do regular members get to visit as much as they want? Any time? And, does everyone applying for membership have to audition/perform something?
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Postby KirkG » 06/24/05 02:44 PM

Ryan,

I am confused. Are you a member or not? You posted on our page as a member and yet your questions here clearly show an ignorance of your club.


Dustin,

I would support your idea of a membership with a few changes of benefits. We already have a certain amount of reciprocity with IBM and SAM. Let's get together via email or at the Castle to discuss.

George W.

For those who are not ready to be a "regular or full" member of the Castle we have Associate Members. We also offer classes to help you to prepare for your audition and while enrolled, you have limited access to the Castle.

I apologize if that wasn't made available to you at the time of your interaction.

With all due respect to the SAM and IBM and PCAM and SCAM and others, the exclusivity of the Magic Castle is something I would like to continue. There are plenty of magic clubs, both for beginniners and professionals. There is only one Magic Castle.

To all that offered to make contributions regardless of the amount, Thank you!

That being said, to those members of the AMA, perhaps it would be best to limit your discussion to our forum for the anwers to the questions you seek. No sense airing all our dirty laundry in public. Just a suggestion.

Of course keeping newsworthy announcments here I am all for. IMHO,

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Postby Guest » 06/24/05 02:45 PM

I don't think anyone is really questioning the amount, in as much as, questioning when will it end? Its akin to putting more money into a car that already has 150k miles on it..."hmmm, if I sink another $500 into repairing all of the oil leaks now, when will the next $500 bill pop up"?

As much as I like Mr.Biro's idea of offering $1000 "Lifetime" memberships for the bailout, the question of course is, how long will this "lifetime" be?

I await my letter...and hopefully an explaination. Looks like Mr. Hindman might have to dust off his wonderful money act. :)
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Postby Guest » 06/24/05 03:38 PM

For those who got the letter or haven't something appeared within it that is quite interesting.

Here we are bleeding cash and in a serious situation. Members are being tapped hard for $250.00 to help infuse a patient whose bleeding may continue. Many members can ill afford $250.00 considering they themselves have other more pressing and important priorities within their lives.

The most interesting part of the letter was a piece that no one has commented on. It's the $2,000.00 a month fee that is going to be paid to Dale Hindman to consult with the forensic auditors. Dale is the President of the AMA and Magic Castle. If the club fails it's basically on his head just like any President of a corporation or business entity. The responsibility for what is happening, no matter who or what is at fault, rests on him and of course the BOD. The success and viability of the club rests more on him than anyone else, he is the head of the organization and he gets paid for that privilege.

To pay him an extra $2,000.00 a month for however long it takes (estimates are 2 months) so he can be a "special" consultant to the accountants is in my view incredible. Considering that the Castle is in deep financial straights, that it won't be able to meet payroll in 6 weeks, that it's a do or die situation, Dale should have been available as the consultant as part of his duty as the President without further remuneration. Or at least he should have deferred any possible remuneration till after the findings were delivered and the financial viability of the Castle is known. Each month that goes by the $250.00 assessed to 8 members will be needed to pay him not including whatever fees the accountants are charging (and forensic auditing is not cheap).

I love the Magic Castle. It has been my home for 30 years. I hate to see it going through what it has been going through and I do want to see it survive and thrive as it once did. The mismanagement from the top down has to be stopped and replaced with business savvy members who don't depend on the Castle to deliver their living. If not we'll see this same problem occuring again in the near future.

When you begin to peel back the layers, what lies beneath begins to smell.
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Postby Ryan Matney » 06/24/05 04:37 PM

Originally posted by Kirk the Magician:
Ryan,

I am confused. Are you a member or not? You posted on our page as a member and yet your questions here clearly show an ignorance of your club.
Kirk,

You must have me confused with someone else. I havn't, that I know of, posted on a forum as member of the magic castle. Nor have I ever posted on the Magic Castle's page/forums, if that is what you mean. I admit an ignorance of the clubs workings--I've never pursued a membership.
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Postby Guest » 06/24/05 04:58 PM

occams razors - who exactly are you??
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Postby KirkG » 06/24/05 05:10 PM

Ryan,

My apologies, I was wrong. Your name is remarkably similar to anothers. My error entirely.

kirk
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Postby Steve V » 06/24/05 05:49 PM

Gee Dustin, I liked your idea. But I guess in the name of exclusiveness y'all are on your own.
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Postby John LeBlanc » 06/24/05 07:58 PM

Originally posted by DustinStinett:
So there you have it. Im very curious if anybody would consider such a membership so they can call themselves a member of the Academy of Magical Arts and if those benefits listed are a good value for the money. By the way, it would not matter where you live.
And no one discussed this excellent idea? Pity. I'd join under those terms.

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Postby Guest » 06/24/05 11:11 PM

Maybe we can self park. . . .
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